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Posted on: February 15, 2019

Opera House Celebrates 130 Years

McPherson Opera House Exterior

The McPherson Opera House has been a monument in our community for 130 years. But did you know the current building is not the original? The first opera house dates back to original settlers and the town’s first bank. Farmers E.P. Williams and W.H. Cottingham organized the McPherson Bank in 1878, which resulted in the construction of a prominent building along the town’s main thoroughfare. The bank was located on the first floor. A 600-seat opera house occupied the top floors.

As the town grew and prospered, the McPherson Opera House played an important role serving as host for local plays, traveling performers, speakers and political meetings. But less than a decade later, residents began advocating for a new building to attract more quality touring productions. The second opera house cost $42,000 and fulfilled the goal of offering a grand theatre setting.

The first performance at what we now call the “McPherson Opera House” was staged in 1889. The beautifully decorated auditorium seated 900 and boasted a mural above the proscenium arch created by artist G.N. Malm. The space became the community cultural center for many years. In 1925, the McPherson Opera House closed briefly during which time the west half of the building was converted to apartments and the auditorium was converted to a movie theatre. The invention of television caused the movie theatre to close in 1965. All opera house activity became dormant.

When the empty building was slated for demolition in the 1980s, community members created the McPherson Opera House Preservation Company. Their ultimate goal was to save the opera house and restore the facility to community use. Years of planning and fundraising resulted in an $8.5 million renovation project. In 2010, the preservation group (renamed McPherson Opera House Company) celebrated the reopening of the building at 219 S. Main – a building that is now a McPherson icon.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the McPherson Opera House has won numerous awards for its architectural excellence. Performers continue to offer accolades about the auditorium’s acoustics and intimacy. And patrons appreciate the quality of performances. As the McPherson Opera House celebrates 130 years, all are invited to experience its historic charm. Upcoming events can be viewed at

Are you wondering what happened to the original opera house? The building remains on Main Street at the southwest corner of Main and Marlin Streets. First floor houses a music store. Upstairs is a private residence. Our community continues to grow. Our community continues to prosper.

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